CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — After a 14-year annexation battle, the city of Carmel will expand by two square miles into several neighborhoods known as Home Place.
Matt Milam, president of the Concerned Citizens for Home Place, told 24-Hour News 8 his organization and the city of Carmel reached an agreement resulting in a January 2018 annexation of the area.
Home Place is currently an unincorporated area of Hamilton County in Clay Township with 2,200 homes, bordered by 111th and 99th streets on the north and south, respectively, and Westfield Boulevard and Pennsylvania Street on the east and west. Milam says the homes range from $80,000 to $300,000 in value, with about 50 percent valued above $150,000.
“We had a real united effort with the people of Home Place,” remarked Milam. “I really think that we did the best we could.”
Milam explained the battle began in 2004 and has included several legal victories and setbacks for the donation-based group. Earlier this year, a Boone County circuit court ruled that because Home Place relies on Carmel for fire protection, the group cannot stop Carmel’s attempts at annexation. Milam says he considers their victories to be postponing the annexation as long as they have and changing the law surrounding annexation.
“It did not help our case, but it helped other cases in the state of Indiana,” said Milam. “Cities can no longer do what Carmel did now. You have to have 51 percent support from the people you’re annexing.”
Once Home Place is annexed, residents will begin paying property taxes, city service fees, and may be subject to neighborhood construction. They will also be able to vote in Carmel city elections.
“It’s sad, but you feel like it has to come to an end sometime,” continued Milam. “All things have to end; this just happened to end this year. All in all, it is what it is. We’ll take what the result is today.”
Susie Loveall and her husband live in College Meadows, a neighborhood within the Home Place area. She said the whole issue made her feel depressed.
“I hate Carmel. I do not do any shopping in Carmel whatsoever,” said Loveall, sitting on her porch swing. “[They] make us sound like we’re trash around here, and we’ve always been treated like that. When our kids went to Carmel schools, they treated the Home Place kids horrible.”
The Lovealls have lived in their home for 47 years, and while they aren’t planning on moving due to the decision, Susie has a few requests for Carmel.
“I just hope they try to clean it up,” she said. “And quit building doubles. Build homes for kids that can afford them, not $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 homes. Have people take care of your property. You don’t have to be rich to take care of your property.”
Community development is in the plan for Carmel. Mayor Jim Brainard release the following statement:
We are pleased with today’s agreement with some of the residents of Home Place to move forward with the annexation of this area into the City of Carmel.
I first proposed this in 1996 as a matter of efficiency in local government. Home Place is an urbanized area and should be part of the City of Carmel. We are one community with one public school system, one library system, a fire department that serves both the city and the township –everyone should be part of the community, the City of Carmel.
It is very inefficient to serve just a two square mile area. Hamilton County officials have been supportive in the decision to annex the area because they recognize how much it costs to serve Home Place. Even though the county does a good job of providing basic services, Carmel can do it for less money because the city totally surrounds Home Place.
Carmel spends a great deal of money providing services such as economic development. This helps everyone within the public school district because it helps hold down taxes; however, Carmel residents are paying for all of it. Additionally, Home Place residents are tremendously impacted by Carmel’s policy and decisions and they should be allowed to vote for those officials.
We recognize that some have expressed concern about their local tax rates going up. While that is true that property owners will be paying City taxes beginning with the January 1, 2018 Assessment, they should also know that Carmel has one of the lowest city tax rates in Indiana.
Home Place is an area in need of assistance that only Carmel can provide. Hamilton County, for example, does not have a code enforcement agency and as a result there are many absentee landlords that are offering substandard housing. Carmel has housing and code enforcement inspectors and does not allow houses to be in a rundown condition, grass not to be cut, cars on blocks etc. While only a portion of Home Place has these problems it is a serious problem and I don’t want it to spread.
I have personally heard from many property owners in Home Place that they have been in favor of annexation. They understand and we believe that property owners in Home Place will benefit from annexation.
There are many areas of Home Place that are beautiful and well kept. But we also acknowledge that there are some concerned that without annexation and the added city services that come with it, their property values could eventually depreciate, impacting years of savings. Most people’s houses are their biggest investment and I do not want to see values destroyed and I am concerned the blight on some of the streets will spread. The absentee landlords need to be held to higher standards and county government, meant for rural areas, is not equipped with the manpower to do that.”